In the face of the coming Eidfestival Dhaka city has become inundated with beggars coming from all over thecountry. The existence of hundreds of pathetic looking beggars do not say muchabout the success of the Government and NGOs in alleviating poverty.
As the holy month of Ramzan haspassed the 18th day yesterday, beggars, many of them disabled, have put thecity dwellers under heavy pressure to help them with money. These beggars feelfree to harass car and baby-taxi users, specially the car users. They argue ifthe beggars are not satisfied. The foreigners avoid coming out if they can. Anygovernment with a sense of pride for the country will act to stop begging inthe streets in organised groups and harassing the commuters. The beggars areseen more insistent if they find foreigners in the car. But the governmentseems to lack sensibilities about the indulgence beggars enjoy in the streets.They knock on car windows for help and one may have to face ugly altercation ifthey are to be refused. The car users, in particular, feel intimidated in thepresence of beggars.
Admitted that there are some withno civic sense who for the satisfaction of showing they are rich give thebeggars few takas and cause public inconvenience for all others.
The general complaint is that ifsome one wants to be kind to the poor, he can do so, and many so does, withoutpublic display in the street and without causing public inconvenience anddamaging the country's public image. In different countries there are lawsprohibiting beggars from pestering people in the streets. We have also such alaw but no application.
There are some six lakh beggarswho are said to operate normally in the city throughout the year. During thecurrent month of Ramzan their numbers have more than doubled. The disabledones, particularly, attract more sympathies and get more help from citydwellers. Most of the beggars are women with babies. They create an image oftotally uncaring government.
Most of the disabled beggars areborn with physical disabilities. However, some of the disabled ones are victimsof beggar syndicates who maim them to engage them profitably as professionalbeggars.
The disabled ones of allcategories and ages merit special attention of the government for humanetreatment and rehabilitation. Such disabled people are also the concern of theUnited Nations. There are programmes involving the NGOs for helping thedisabled ones. But where is the money given, that is the question.
It is learnt that the governmenthas taken up a Tk 12.47-crore 'Beggars Rehabilitation Programme' under which asurvey of beggars in Dhaka city would be conducted to prepare a database withphotographs of people who live on alms.
The Ministry of Social Welfarehas formulated a set of guidelines for the survey, the first of its kind, to beconducted by some ten NGOs under the guidance of Bangladesh Bureau ofStatistics. Beggars' photographs would be taken to avoid duplication and ensureproper rehabilitation of the helpless people at different parts of country. Butno progress is visible. Nobody seems to know what progress has been made.
The disabled beggars should berelocated at government supported rehabilitation centres while able-bodied oneswould be provided with opportunities for self-employment, preferably in theirown districts.
We do not say that governmentwill be able to stop begging altogether. They have to be regulated and theycannot have the freedom to chase people or go anywhere for begging. In Bangkokthe beggars are found on the pavements but they are not allowed to stand up orfollow anybody seek help.
Under the kind of governments wehave been having, we cannot expect to see any programme for the benefit of thepeople succeeding.
For the pathetic sight of thedisabled beggars in the streets of the capital city let the government dosomething as a very special responsibility. No respectable government with anysense of public duty should feel unconcerned about street beggars, includingdisabled ones, roaming about in the capital city targeting people for alms.